Health Care

For Arthritis Pain, Tylenol Works as Well as Opioids

For Arthritis Pain, Tylenol Works as Well as Opioids

At the end of 12 months, the opioid group scored an average 3.4 on the function scale, and the nonopioid group 3.3, an insignificant difference.

You can read the results of the entire study here. He then split them into two groups, assigning half of them to receive opioids, and the other half to non-opioid drugs.

But Tuesday's publication of the full results in the Journal of the American Medical Association could have additional impact, Krebs said, because policymakers nationally have had little comparative data on whether opioids work well enough to justify their risks.

Acetaminophen, or brand name paracetamol, was used as the non-opioid medication while the other pain-control regiment included morphine, oxycodone, or a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen. If the prescription didn't work, it would be changed, selecting from drugs that had been shortlisted.

Except this wasn't the case: although patients were expecting opioids to be more effective, they weren't. The participants told the researchers how bad their pain was and how it was affecting their lives over the course of a year.

Researchers concluded this study does not support initiation of opioid therapy for moderate to severe chronic back pain or hip or knee osteoarthritis pain.

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There are alternatives to opioids and drugs for pain management, if employers are willing to consider them.

Also, the opioid group reported twice the average level of adverse medication-related symptoms than the nonopioid group - with a 1.8 on a 19-point symptom scale compared to the nonopioid group's 0.9. On a scale of 0 to 10, the average score was 3.4 for those on opioids and 3.3 for those who weren't. Opioid overdoses increased 30 percent late last summer, compared to the same three-month period in 2016.

Patients reported changes in function or pain on questionnaires. The one exception was anxiety, which improved more for those taking opioids. The other group was given strictly nonopioids you can buy over-the-counter like acetaminophen (such as the drug Tylenol) or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug like ibuprofen.

The study's headline finding remains the same as when Dr. Erin Krebs presented it last spring at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center: Setting aside their potential side effects and risks, opioid painkillers are no more effective than safer alternatives in long-term treatment of patients with chronic pain in their backs, hips or knees.

However, the findings should prompt doctors to reconsider the use of opioids as a first-line treatment for chronic musculoskeletal pain, they wrote.

The study was funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs.


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